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A Look at Driving Tests in Africa

Driving Tests in Africa

Africa is the world’s second largest continent, stretching all the way from the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope. This gives African drivers a huge amount to explore—but how do they go about getting on the road? In this article, we’ll explore the reality of driving tests in Africa, and check out what the process of learning to drive is really like for the continent’s 1.2 billion people.


Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mauritius
Sierra Leone
Egypt
Mozambique
South Africa
Morocco
Kenya
Senegal
Rwanda

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

🇨🇩 DRIVING TESTS IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost Varies
Medical requirements? No
Validity of licence 5 years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

Here in the UK, we’re used to having the occasional moan about long driving test waiting times. Imagine the uproar, however, if the DVLA suddenly announced that they were to stop issuing new licences. Amazingly, this was the scenario faced by drivers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from late 2017 to early 2018.

The aim of this was to introduce a “truly biometric” driving licence in the country and, in turn, crack down on the issue of counterfeit licensing. News network Africa 24 added that the move would help reduce the number of drivers with no knowledge of the rules of the road.

It’s another major step forward for the country, which didn’t require new drivers to pass tests until 2012. Up to that point, would-be drivers would simply pay the equivalent of $70 to get a licence, and that was it: you could hit the road the very next day.

The system is now considerably more stringent. Learners in the DRC must now undergo testing on road signs, a simulated drive on a PC, and a theory test on the rules of the road. There’s also, of course, a practical test to go through, and drivers must also pass a medical exam. New car driving licences, meanwhile, cost $50 to obtain.


Mauritius

Map of Mauritius

🇲🇺 DRIVING TESTS IN MAURITIUS
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Medical requirements? No
Cost Practical and theory tests: Rs 500 (≈£11)
Validity of licence No information
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

We voyage next to one of Africa’s island nations: picturesque Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Though one of the world’s smallest countries, there are plenty of reasons for locals and holidaymakers alike to hit the Mauritian roads, with the island’s beaches making it one of Africa’s top tourist destinations.

Those wishing to apply for a Mauritian licence must first make an appointment. It is possible to do this in person at a local police station, or online. In the latter case, learners must then bring along identification documents and passport photos to the central police station in Port-Louis. Learners will then receive a provisional licence, enabling them to take the theory and practical tests.

Next, they’ll sit an theory exam in either English or French. Much like in the UK, this is a computerised test, and sees candidates asked questions on traffic signs and signals, as well as the rules of the road. The test lasts 40 minutes and consists of 40 questions; the first five questions are for practice. Learners must answer 29 of the remaining 35 questions correctly to pass.

After this, learners may make an appointment to sit their practical test. Here, learners must bring their own car, and show that they are able to:

  • Move off safely
  • Turn left and right
  • Stop, including an emergency stop
  • Operate all controls
  • Perform a hill start
  • Give clear and appropriate signals
  • Reverse, including around corners and into parking bays
  • Perform a three-point turn

As you can see, the test here is no slouch—but how does it compare to other driving tests in Africa? Let’s continue our journey to find out.


Sierra Leone

Map of Sierra Leone

🇸🇱 DRIVING TESTS IN SIERRA LEONE
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost No information
Medical requirements? No
Validity of licence 5 years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

Next up in our rundown of driving tests in Africa is Sierra Leone. Driving tests in this small West African nation hit the headlines a few years ago for an unusual reason: their use of a board game for theory test training.

This unusual strategy is the brainchild of police chief Morie Lenghor, who created the Driver’s Way board game. The game aims to teach learners the rules of the road in a more entertaining way than standard textbooks.

Though unconventional, there are serious reasons behind the move: in a country with limited infrastructure, road fatalities are high—and public ignorance of the highway code isn’t helping. Lenghor notes, in fact, that this lack of knowledge is the root cause of “most crashes”, and that “most drivers don’t even understand half the road signs”.

The Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority estimates that learners should spend a few months practising with the game, which costs around $14, before taking their theory test. From there, they’ll be free to hit the roads. In a country which was estimated to have no working traffic lights in 2013, however, drivers here can expect some of the worst road conditions on the continent.


Egypt

Map of Egypt

🇪🇬 DRIVING TESTS IN EGYPT
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost Practical test: 305 LE (≈£14)
Medical requirements? Yes
Validity of licence 10 years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

Road conditions in Egypt can, famously, be chaotic. Part of the reason for this is down to the sheer size of its capital, Cairo, one of Africa’s largest megacities. Another key factor, however, may be the ease with which candidates could previously get their licence.

Until just a few short years ago, the Egyptian driving test consisted of driving forward for six metres, then doing the same in reverse. Do that, and congratulations: you are the proud holder of an Egyptian driving licence! Obviously, this system needed tweaking.

Today’s learners have things a bit tougher, which is probably for the best. To be able to take your test, you’ll first have to get certificates from an opthalmologist and physician regarding your visual and physical health.

After this, you’ll take your theory and practical tests—and, while these are slightly harder than they were before, they still stand as some of the easiest driving tests in Africa. The theory test includes just 10 questions; candidates need to get 8 right to pass. The practical test, meanwhile, sees candidates driving forward and backward on an S-shaped track, alongside parking exercises. Still, it’s good to see that tests here are moving in the right direction!


Mozambique

Map of Mozambique

🇲🇿 DRIVING TESTS IN MOZAMBIQUE
Minimum age 21
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost Practical test: 2,185 MT (≈£27)
Medical requirements? No
Validity of licence Renewable at 40, 50, 65 and 70; every two years thereafter
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

Until relatively recently, the process of getting on the road in Mozambique was remarkably cheap. Driving licences came in at the equivalent of around £6.25, while the driving test itself was £1.25. To put it into perspective, that’s just 2% of what a test costs here!

In November 2018, however, all of that changed, with the Mozambican government instituting some pretty severe price hikes. The cost of a driving licence increased fivefold, from 500 MT to 2,500 MT, or around £31. The driving test, meanwhile, went up from 100 MT to 2,185—a whopping 2,085% rise. (This is still, however, less than half the price of a driving test in the UK!)

The higher prices caused understandable uproar—especially when the country’s deputy transport minister simply advised those who did not “have the conditions” to buy a car not to apply for a licence at all. Mozambique’s government defended the new fees as necessary due to the introduction of biometric licences.

So, how do learners get their licence? Well, the process involves sitting a computer-based theory test as well as a practical test. There are separate classes of licence for non-professional and professional drivers, as well as ‘public service drivers’, who must be at least 25.

Renewals take place on an unusual schedule; rather than a licence lasting a set number of years, drivers must renew at fixed ages. Normal drivers must renew at 40, 50, 65 and 70 years old, then every two years afterwards. For professional drivers, meanwhile, the renewal ages are 35, 45, 50, 55 and 60, then every two years.


South Africa

Map of South Africa

🇿🇦 DRIVING TESTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost Practical test: R240 (≈£13)
Medical requirements? No
Validity of licence 5 years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers have 5 years to exchange their licence without retaking tests

After looking at some of the more lenient tests on the continent, we now examine one of the trickiest driving tests in Africa: the South African test. Getting your licence here is actually a two-stage process: you’ll need to first get a learner’s licence before you’re able to sit the test to get your full driving licence.

Before getting your learner’s licence, you’ll have to sit a theory test—a similar procedure to certain driving tests in Europe. Unlike in the UK, where you can typically secure an appointment just a couple of weeks after you book in, South African learner’s licence tests can come with a lengthy delay. Indeed, waits of around three months aren’t uncommon—so prepare for the long haul!

The theory test, known as K53, comes with three variants: motorcycle, light motor vehicles (e.g., cars) and heavy motor vehicles (e.g., trucks and buses). All candidates must answer the same first 52 questions, plus 16 specific to their vehicle of choice.

Once you pass, you’ll move onto the driving test, which is no mean feat. You’ll need to first complete both thorough internal and external inspections of the car, including checking under the car for leaks, for example. After this, it’s time for a yard test, which includes forward and backward bay parking (or ‘alley docking’), parallel parking, a three-point turn and a hill start. Then you’ll take to the streets for the road test, which involves driving around the local area. You may also need to complete a starting procedure, an emergency stop, and even demonstrate hand signals.


Morocco

Map of Morocco

🇲🇦 DRIVING TESTS IN MOROCCO
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost No information
Medical requirements? No
Validity of licence 10 years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

As with many countries across Africa, the process of obtaining a Moroccan driving licence has recently undergone a few changes. These affected the theory test—previously, candidates needed to get 30 correct answers out of 40 in order to pass; changes in 2017 raised the bar to 34/40.

Meanwhile, in a bid to clamp down on corrupt practices, each driving instructor is allowed to put forward no more than 10 candidates for the driving test per month. Before, some instructors were alleged to have submitted hundreds of candidates each month. Another change was the introduction of a fixed price for training fees, now set at MAD 75.5 (roughly £6) per hour for practical lessons.

Learners in Morocco must now also wait at least six months between starting their driving lessons and being able to take a test. It was possible before the changes for some learners to get on the road in as little as a fortnight, so this was a major shift.

The format of the practical test involves driving around a course. Here, candidates will be expected to perform a slalom around several cones as well as a figure of eight, before accelerating in a straight line, turning, and returning to the end of the course.


Kenya

Map of Kenya

🇰🇪 DRIVING TESTS IN KENYA
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost Practical and theory test: Ksh 650 (≈£5)
Medical requirements? No
Validity of licence One or three years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

As part of the process of moving all government services online, Kenya‘s driving licence went digital at the end of 2018. The new licence will cost drivers Ksh 3000 (roughly £23), and includes an embedded chip. It comes loaded with 20 points, which are deducted if a driver commits any motoring offences—similar to the UK endorsement system. A driver’s record will be available to employers and insurers alike, and, as licences are linked to an individual’s government account, any fines accrued may be charged to it instantly.

So, we know a bit more about the Kenyan licence—but how exactly do hopeful drivers go about getting one? Well, the system is a little different to the one here in the UK. Learners must apply for a provisional licence in order to undergo tuition, but this licence has a validity of just three months. After that, it’s time to enrol in a driving school to take your course.

Once you’re ready, it’s time to book the driving test. Unlike in the UK, this is a single test rather than two—though it does consist of both theory and practical sections. Unusually, the theory test features a table-top board, around which candidates must move toy cars to demonstrate knowledge of the rules of the road.

The driving test itself includes a series of general questions on the candidate’s knowledge of road signs and signals. Then, it’s time to take to the wheel—but it may not be a long drive. In fact, one account given to Kenya’s The Star newspaper suggests that drivers sometimes pass within just one minute!


Senegal

Map of Senegal

🇸🇳 DRIVING TESTS IN SENEGAL
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost 20,000 FCFA (≈£26)
Medical requirements? Yes
Validity of licence Under 45 years old: 10 years
45-55 years old: 3 years
Over 55 years old: 2 years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

In one of the more worrying sentences written about driving, expat.com notes that “attending a driving school is a practice that hasn’t yet become a norm in Senegal”. It does recommend, though, that learners take instruction from a professional (a point of view we can definitely get behind). Those who do attend a driving school will receive tuition in both driving theory and practice.

Once a candidate is ready, they must first go to a doctor to receive medical certificates affirming their fitness to drive. Then, it’s time to take that certificate to an examination centre together with ID photos, proof of residence in Senegal, an ID card, and the necessary fees.

Theory tests can either be verbal or written, and consist of around 25 questions. Interestingly, the highway code still includes signs noting a ‘risk of ice’, even though the lowest recorded temperature ever in Dakar was still above 10 degrees.

The practical test, meanwhile, involves driving on a specific course—close to the Léopold Sédar Senghor stadium if driving in the capital. Candidates must perform certain manoeuvres, including reversing and a slalom around stacks of tyres.


Rwanda

Map of Rwanda

🇷🇼 DRIVING TESTS IN RWANDA
Minimum age 18
Practical test?
Theory test?
Cost 10,000 Frw (≈£9)
Medical requirements? No
Validity of licence Under 65 years old: 10 years
65-69 years old: until the age of 73
70 or older: 3 years
Valid in UK? Yes, for up to 12 months
After 12 months, drivers must retake tests

Getting a driving licence in Rwanda can be a stressful experience, according to The New Times newspaper. Even before candidates get behind the wheel, they can expect to wait around for hours in long queues. Then, when they finally get to driving, their chances are pretty dismal, with a pass rate of around 30%.

One of the key challenges is that, while Rwandans will typically train in automatic cars, they must drive a manual during their test. Many are, therefore, unfamiliar with the process of clutch control and gear changes, making the test a tough obstacle to overcome.

The New Times notes that many despondent candidates turn to other methods to get on the road, including getting a foreign driving licence, or even driving without a permit. The paper also flags up issues such as a lack of professionalism in driving schools, which many learners simply don’t attend as a result.

However, changes are afoot. The Rwandan National Police, who regulate driving tests, are setting up their own driving school, which will offer both lessons and tests. It’s hoped that the move will not only offer learners a better alternative, but also spur on private schools to improve their standards.


So, there you have it! Driving tests in Africa certainly vary from country to country—though many are undergoing major changes to their process. If you’d like to learn more about the test in the UK, however, be sure to check out the many useful articles in our practical test section.

By Andy Boardman

Andy fell in love with driving while road tripping around Iceland. He'll provide you with plenty of useful motoring advice, helping you to get the most out of every trip. When he's not writing here, you're most likely to find Andy on the way to his next destination.

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